OTTAWA - The Senators will hit the golf course Thursday in Kanata for their annual charity tournament.
Ideally, they wonít hit a golf ball again until later next spring.
Picked by the experts to finish anywhere from competing for a playoff spot to No. 15 in the Eastern Conference, the Senators get down to serious business with medicals Friday.
After missing the playoffs two of the past three seasons, the Senatorsí goal is to get back to the post-season next spring. Whether thatís realistic wonít be determined until the puck is dropped, but here are five keys to making it happen:
1. A SOLID CRAIG ANDERSON
Signed to a four-year contract after being acquired from the Colorado Avalanche, Anderson has to pick up where he left off last spring. He has to make the big saves at the big time and avoid getting swallowed up by the pressure that has sent other netminders packing in this city. Anderson played 71 games for the Avs in 2009-10, but Colorado had no interest in keeping him after a tough time last season. Heís going to have to play at least 70 games for the Senators to make the playoffs. Alex Auld is not reliable for long stretches.
2. A HEALTHY DANIEL ALFREDSSON
The captain suited up for the fewest games in his career (54) last season. He left the club in February and never returned because of a back injury that required surgery. Alfredsson, who will turn 39 in December, spent the summer in Ottawa rehabbing from the procedure and feels good going into camp. He has been the clubís best player since his rookie season in 1995-96, but the Senators believe itís time for him to pass the torch. There wonít be the pressure on him to carry the load offensively. He just has to be a strong contributor.
3. BUY INTO PAUL MacLEANíS PROGRAM
The Senators donít have the Cory Clouston excuse anymore. Heís gone. He couldnít communicate and thatís why GM Bryan Murray felt the need to make a change after last season. The difference with MacLean, 53, is going to be night and day. Heís personable, has spoken with the players and wants them to succeed. He wants the players to adopt an aggressive style. The Senators might need to add a little more muscle up front to make that happen. The young players should be willing to listen and there will be plenty of them.
4. A STRONG JASON SPEZZA
Next to Anderson, he was one of the clubís best players down the stretch last season. Heís going to get a leadership role under MacLean and will wear an ĎAí on his jersey to replace Mike Fisher. Spezza has been a good soldier for the organization and MacLean said on the weekend he wants Spezza to be THE clubís best player. In fact, MacLean made it clear Spezza has to be if the Senators are to have success. That means leading the charge out of the gate every night and coming up with big points.
5. CHRIS PHILLIPS AND SERGEI GONCHAR
The two veteran blueliners didnít have very good seasons last year. They were paired together at times, but it didnít work out well. Phillips passed on becoming a UFA to re-sign with the Senators, while Gonchar had a rough go in his first season in Ottawa. There is going to be pressure on both defencemen to perform: Phillips has to play well defensively and Gonchar is going to have to put up points. He was one of the best power play defencemen in the league with Pittsburgh. The acquisition of MacLean should help both.